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The Case for Ending the Rotation of the Summer Olympic Games: Bring Them Home Forever

Αssociated Press

The Olympic flame is symbolically passed from one torch to another after after the official ceremonial lighting of the flame in Ancient Olympia, Greece, on Thursday, April 21, 2016. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

The world has been through so much over these past two years with the COVID-19 pandemic, which is still ongoing. A tonic to sooth our collective stress and grief was needed in these trying times and the Olympic Games hosted in Tokyo this summer, coupled with the soccer of the Euro Championship, were supposed to be, and largely have been, just what the proverbial doctor ordered. This edition of the Summer Olympiad has not gone without its controversies, drama and highlights, just like any other. However, what is different this time around is that there is a growing consciousness about the economic illogicality of hosting the Olympic Games. The 2016 Beijing Olympics cost $45 billion, and it is projected that the 2021 edition in Tokyo is to cost Japan will cost approximately $28 billion, without factoring the tourism driven economic boon the country was expected to get from spectators that were ultimately not permitted to be there in person due to COVID-19 concerns. The Olympic Games headed by the international Olympic Committee have not escaped the charges of corruption, inefficiency, and bad public relations, much like the governing body of soccer, FIFA, in recent years.

For the majority of the sports featured in the Summer Olympic Games, medaling is the greatest achievement in that sport but the inconvenience to locals in hosting the games, the massive bill for governments, the scandals, and elite athletes voluntarily pulling out of the Games, have contributed to a loss of luster as people think about the Olympics as a whole.

So what is the solution? The situation cannot be all  bad – after all we are talking about the most prestigious athletic competition in human history, spanning millennia and reintroduced to the world in 1896. To this writer, ladies and gentlemen, the solution seems practical, obvious, and not to be confused with immense Greek nationalism or any type of nostalgia. Every four years, a city is selected to host the Olympic Games and infrastructure, stadiums, promotion, and other costs cripple the finances for a decade, if not more, of not just the city but of the nation as a whole if it is small enough. Shiny stadiums that take years to build are used for one month and become black holes and money pits – and the investment is never really returned. The answer to such a conundrum is fairly obvious: to not host the Olympics in a city that must start from scratch every four years, but one that already has the requisite facilities and spirit. One such city is Athens, and one such country is Greece. Greece should host the Summer Olympics every four years henceforth due to the crippling costs on nations hosting them. The existing infrastructure in Greece will be vigorously and properly maintained and improved systematically – and the Olympics would be home, forever.

Prime Minister Konstantinos Karamanlis, a man in many regards ahead of his time, in 1976 and in 1980 respectively, had correspondences with the International Olympic Committee regarding Greece permanently hosting the Olympic Games. Karamanlis was met with ridicule, critics insisting Greece did not have the capacity to host such an event. Perhaps they had a point then, but like the argument that Greece in the past lacked the facilities to host the Elgin Marbles, now with the ‘new’ Museum of the Acropolis, so too with the infrastructure from the Athens 2004 Games, Greece has a viable answer to questions about infrastructure for the Olympics. Greece needs to be the permanent home of the Summer Olympic Games for practical, economic, historical, and logical reasons.